V8 Supercars: Coulthard ready for title push

By Eric Thompson

Supercar rivalry resumes as competition gears up to be one of closest yet

Fabian Coulthard. Photo / Getty Images
Fabian Coulthard. Photo / Getty Images

After a five-week break the V8 Supercars are back in action this weekend in Darwin for round six of the 2014 championship. This season is shaping up to being one of the tightest on record with 10 different winners over the first 16 races.

Seven different teams have won races with four of the five manufacturers in the series having a winner's trophy in the garage. Nissan are yet to claim a top spot on the podium.

The normally dominant Red Bull Racing Australia haven't had it all their own way this year. Despite winning six races,more than any other team, they've only notched up one win from the past 10 races.

Ford Performance Racing have come into their own over the last two rounds and Mark Winterbottom now sits on top of the points table from Craig Lowndes and New Zealander Fabian Coulthard.

Winterbottom won at Hidden Valley last year and with two other wins in the Darwin heat he is confident of extending his 101-point buffer.

"It is good to go to Darwin as we've had a big break. We have regrouped and had a look at what we've done well and what we haven't," said Winterbottom.

"If we could pick a round to give us extra confidence it would be Darwin as we've always performed well there. It is one of our favourites and our strength has been tyre life so the tyre allocation, while not great, should suit us so I am keen to get going.

"Hopefully we can maintain our lead and start the next phase of the championship as good as we did the first one.

"A lot of teams have tested including us so there could be a lot more pace coming from others around us."

Following a successful test day at Winton this month Coulthard is keen to get back behind the wheel and continue his push for the title.

He nabbed more valuable points and kept himself firmly in the championship picture leaving Perth and wants to continue the momentum.

"It'll be interesting to see how we go in Darwin," he said. "We tested a few things at Winton and I'd say we've definitely learnt some things.

"We've had a mixed bag of results up there. We were unfortunate last year when the car was involved in a crash and then it wouldn't start in one of the races; so we've had speed but we just haven't had the luck.

"This year to date has been pretty good so I'm looking forward to building on the confidence that we've got on the other rounds and bringing that in to Darwin."

Defending champion Jamie Whincup has at times struggled to be on the pace at the sharp end of the field, but is hanging in there in fourth ahead of a resurgent James Courtney. The two other Kiwis in the field, Shane van Gisbergen and Scott McLaughlin, have had an up-and- down championship. They will be looking for consistency this weekend to improve on their sixth and seventh places respectively.

The Kiwi pair have apparently buried the hatchet after their verbal stoush at the last round in Perth where McLaughlin poured the borax on van Gisbergen for not giving him enough racing room, as per the unwritten rule between the New Zealand racers.

"For us this weekend we really need to bounce back from a poor Perth round," said van Gisbergen.

"We have gone back to an approach we know that works so hopefully back to basics helps. I've always gone good here so getting back into the top five [in the championship] and being there every race is what we need to do."

McLaughlin and Whincup have the best qualifying record in the field with both having sat on the front row seven times. McLaughlin, however, has qualified in the top five (13) and top 10 (15) more times than any other driver this year.

"To be honest, we just have to see where we're at. I honestly think we will be okay, but it's tough to know due to the five-week break," said McLaughlin.

V8 Supercars points after four rounds

1. Mark Winterbottom 1199

2. Craig Lowndes 1098

3. Fabian Coulthard 1059

4. Jamie Whincup 986

5. James Courtney 928

6. Shane van Gisbergen 861

7. Scott McLaughlin 840

8. Chaz Mostert 782

- NZ Herald

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